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Fortify Your Workplace: Cultivating Mental Wellbeing, HSE Management Standards, Employee Benefits, and Personal Resilience

Andrew Supple, Partner

There are many definitions of employee wellbeing available in the UK market.  To simplify things for most of our clients, EBC encourages them to focus on three aspects of wellbeing – physical, mental, and financial.  There are others, but we think that these are the key ones that employers should and can engage with to support their employees.  Clearly, if you can do more then you should, but we must start somewhere, and this is a good base position.

For most employers and employees, it is relatively straightforward to discuss physical and financial wellbeing including what support that can be offered.  However, with mental wellbeing, I am often asked what an employer can do to help prevent and support employees with their mental wellbeing.

My answer is always: The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Management Standards – What are the Management Standards? – Stress – HSE.

It’s quite wordy, but the HSE Management Standards website explains the approach in detail and includes kits to roll it out in your workplace.  Essentially, the Standards cover six key areas of work design: demands, control, support, relationships, role, and change.  You can assess how an employee is performing in each area using a questionnaire.  By analysing the results of the questionnaires and discussing them with your employees, you help to build a collaborative and proactive approach which can look for practical improvements that will help to improve the working environment.  Once you have completed an assessment, you also have a benchmark for your business that you can work to improve on annually.  Additionally, the work can be used to support your company in respect of any duty of care issues that you might arise.

Sadly, most UK employers have not adopted this approach when looking to support mental wellbeing.  My view is that they are put off by the time investment required and the potential for the results of any survey to crystallise any existing workplace mental wellbeing problems.  The thing with hard data is that, once you see it, you cannot unsee it and ignoring it is likely to be a bad idea.  For full transparency, EBC does not currently use this approach, but I am hoping that we will start to use it in some form in the next few years.

Most employers do not have a quantified risk management approach to mental wellbeing and are too focused on wellbeing apps, employee benefits and occupational health to support their employees.  All of these are great options to have as they offer support and treatment to employees, but they aren’t structural approaches as they are heavily reliant on individual engagement with the offering which might happen after a point of failure i.e. people seeking help when they are ill.  That’s a long version of saying that a lot of the current tools in the market are not preventative, but the Management Standards are preventative.

We also need employees to be pro-active in managing their own mental wellbeing.  Common strategies include Self-Care / Managing Your Physical Wellbeing, Gratitude and Altruism, Mindfulness and Meditation, Personal Enforcement of Work-Life Balance, Having a Support Network, Asking for Help, Developing Yourself (Including Professionally) and Having a Positive Mindset.  This is not an exhaustive list of options and what works for you will be different to others, but all the above strategies have appeared in data led studies which show that they can help to improve mental wellbeing for individuals.

If we bring these altogether, we get create a holistic approach to employee mental wellbeing in the workplace:

  • Implementing the Management Standards give us an organisational level, preventative approach to helping employees with their mental wellbeing.
  • Having a strong Employee Benefits package provides a range of wellbeing support to employees and a range of potential treatment options.
  • Helping employees understand a variety of individual level strategies can also help to make them more resilient and improve their mental wellbeing.

If you need help with wellbeing as an employer, please reach out to us at EBC.  From the award winning EBC TV through to our Employee Benefits Platform, we can help you find an approach that positively supports the wellbeing of your employees.

Andrew.supple@ebc-llp.com

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